Can You Drive This Bus? or You Can’t Sleep Sitting Up

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I usually do the posts on things that are, well, under par (except bungies). This week is NO EXCEPTION! Throughout our entire trip we’ve ridden buses. We’ve taken cross country busses, sleeper busses and the like. Coming into Turkey and finding busses to be the cheapest and easiest way to get around, we decided on taking them here as well. Our previous excursions on busses have been pleasant with the exception of the no a/c tour bus we were in for eleven hours in Vietnam. We took a bus to the mountains near Tibet. While some will say this was cramped and bumpy, I found it to be adequate. We then took a cross country bus from China to Vietnam. Once again all the basic needs were met. We took an incredible sleeper bus in Thailand, and although it wasn’t the most luxurious of busses, it was very fun. They played a hilarious Thai movie (well, we couldn’t understand it but can anything with a buff midget and a transvestite not be funny? I’m going to stop there.) Best of all the seats laid down like a bed. Yes, a bed. Nearly a full recline. As we learned a couple days ago, the Turks have a lot to learn from the Thais. Turkish busses may look nice and cozy on the outside (how could a Mercedes Benz be bad? Oh wait, Uncle Vito was a Mercedes), but there is little to love once you get inside. Asher was the first to learn that the seats only reclined to the point of an office chair. At first we thought maybe hers was broken. But of course, they were all like that. In a depressed state we leaned as far back as we could and watched in horror as a Turkish movie from the 60’s came on. Terrible acting, terrible story, terrible camera work (although it would make a good Mystery Science Theater 3000). The movie dragged on and on. We downed all the drinks we had and scarfed our rations of pretzel sticks. The lights finally went off as the movie started its second half and we all tried to sleep. In the extremely cramped space no one except Kieran and Asher could. We shuffled for hours trying to find a decent position to no avail. The bus stopped every three hours and everyone woke up every time it did. By morning the situation was blurry. Everyone was cramped like nobody’s business. Row partners McKane and mom seemed as if they were in a pretzel, Asher had ended up on dad’s lap, Kieran was half on the floor, and my head was rug burned from the coarse chair fabric. Struggling to get up we managed to make it off the bus with all our bags and onto the car to the hotel. When we got to the hotel we found out we would be bypassing breakfast and showers to go on a tour. The day from hell seemed only more complete when I was told that we would be doing this all again in three days.

Our second experience on a Turkish bus was no better than the first; in fact it was more problematic. We had tickets for everyone but Asher. (This is what they do when they say little kids are free. Instead of giving you a free ticket, they just say they don’t need a ticket.) We thought this might be a problem but were informed by a congenial manager that the bus was empty and there would be plenty of room for her to have her own seat. After a short ride on a nice bus we transfered to the lumbering behemoth that we’d be riding in. We took a few seats next to each other, not the ones on the tickets since there was already a Turkish guy taking up a few of them, but figured “it should be alright” like the man had said. We managed to keep our seats until the bus left. Then the steward came asking for tickets, and by looks of things, we knew it would be trouble. He snapped angrily at McKane who was sitting in the back of the bus by himself and yelled, “Ticket! Ticket!” Mac, a little shocked and not knowing what to do, shook his head. My mom told the man that she was his mother, but, of course, the man didn’t speak English. My mom held out the tickets and he snatched them from her. She reeled back with disgust and cringed. He looked at the tickets, looked at us, looked at the seats, looked at us, then the tickets. His face turned red and he yelled something in Turkish at us gesturing to the seats. Knowing what he meant but not wanting to move, we tried to explain to him that the man at the station said it would be alright. This angry dude would have nothing of it. He got a man who spoke English to tell us to move and after a futile effort to try maintain our seats we were up in another row. He did the same to everyone else, including the guy who had taken our seats and a poor lady who had to move to the front row behind the stinky driver and next to the frequently opening front door.

This time there was thankfully no Turkish butchery of cinema and we tried to rest. These chairs didn’t even go back as far as the others and the were considerably less comfortable. They made the other ones seem first class, and the Thai bus seem like a royal chariot. We all tried to sleep but it was impossible. The bus stopped every hour or so to pick up and drop people off. It was also much bumpier of a ride through the Turkish mountains and for some reason the driver refused to turn on the heat. I slept for maybe two hours before I heard the bus screech to a halt at the Antalya station. Once again we managed to get off without losing anything (at least we think, it’s only been a day so we’re not sure). We sat on a bench and half of us dozed off. I tried to flip off my shoe to find it stuck to my foot. I stuck my hand inside and felt something sticky in between the shoe and sock. I tried to rip whatever it was but I couldn’t get it. I finally tore the shoe off to find that I had somehow stepped in gum while wearing only my socks. It was all over the shoe and had ripped a hole in my sock. I shrugged, put it back on and walked to the taxi. The perfect ending to the perfect day.

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7 thoughts on “Can You Drive This Bus? or You Can’t Sleep Sitting Up

  1. Sorry to hear about your bussing issues. It sounds much like air travel issues that I seem to ALWAYS have. Trans-Atlantic flying, middle seat (you know that middle aisle), broken seat with no recline, plane has a broken generator making the flight delayed 4 hours, not allowed to get off the plane because we have all went through customs already, plane runs out of snacks and water, and finally after 4 hours we then can take off for another 9 in the air. Oh and they didn’t play one movie while we sat on the ground so I am a little jealous of your weird movies.

    Feeling your pain!
    Chris

  2. I don’t know you, but I’ve been following your blog for quite a while! If you are in Antalya for long, find a little cafe called PAUL’S PLACE. It’s run by an American couple named the Bultema’s and it will be a breath of fresh air in your Turkish travels. Some of their kids will be your kids ages and it is a wonderful spot to chat, eat and play :)

  3. In Japan, I stepped into a shoe once and crushed a large cockroach who had taken up residence there. Gum would have been nice.

  4. Dear Dax,
    I was surprised to find that your were “bussing” your way around Turkey

    (Definitions of ‘buss’ (bÅ­s) – 2 definitions – The American Heritage® Dictionary

    buss (tr. & intr.v.) To kiss.
    buss (n.) A kiss.
    Was the gum a breath freshener before it got into your shoe?

    Teasing aside, you are doing a marvelous job reporting the inconveniences of foreign travel and we appreciate your candor.

    Hope you enjoy the balance of the trip. Look forward to your posts.

  5. I am a bit suprised with your bad experiences about turkish buses. Lacking of efficient railway system, Turkey “supposed” to advance their bus transportation system. I travelled in my countries with busses and i can say i didnt have any problems in Turkey. Try bussing in Morocco and you will understand what i mean…

    Btw, gum stock to sock is really bad, i did that before…

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